17 tips for a cozy winter vacation in Banff National Park

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17 tips for a cozy winter vacation in Banff National Park

So you’re thinking about a winter vacation in Banff National Park, huh? Looking for ideas on what to do? A winter holiday in Banff and Lake Louise can be one of the coziest getaways you’ll ever experience. With big, fat snowflakes falling from the sky, log cabins (basically everywhere), roaring stone fireplaces, and warm Canadian hospitality – Banff National Park is the ideal spot to plan a winter vacation in Canada. 

Here are our best tips on how to make your winter vacation in Banff National Park the coziest trip ever.

Sip a craft cocktail at an ice bar during SnowDays TRIBUTE Craft Spirit Celebration, Jan. 19-30, 2022. | Photo courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism

1) Sip craft a cocktail at an ice bar

This January, SnowDays in Banff and Lake Louise is back along with the one-of-a-kind TRIBUTE Craft Spirits Celebration. A 12-day event, January 19-30, 2022, TRIBUTE showcases the best craft distilleries in Canada, totally unique cocktails, special menus, and bars made out of snow and ice. All on the backdrop of Banff and Lake Louise’s buzzing food scene. 

2) Book a cozy cabin in the woods

After a hearty day of adventure, there’s nothing like returning ‘home’ to a cozy cabin in the woods with a real wood-burning fireplace and a thick pillow of snow on the roof. Disconnected from the rush and noise, these cozy cabins, located in beautiful Banff National Park, are known for their peace, quiet, and quaint Canadian vibe.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort is a winter wonderland full of cozy, private cabins – just minutes from Lake Louise Ski Resort. | Photo by Marc James

3) Apres by a giant stone fireplace

Banff Sunshine may be known for some of the best snow in North America but did you know it’s also known for one of the most gorgeous fireplaces in all of Banff National Park? A centrepiece of the deservedly-named Chimney Corner restaurant, this warm, roaring stone fireplace will make a picture-perfect backdrop to your alpine apres and round of appys.  

Banff Sunshine’s Chimney Corner restaurant and its giant fireplace is the ideal backdrop to your alpine apres. | Photo by Mike Seehagel

4) Ride on a gondola

When you visit the mountains, there’s no shortage of gondolas. Even if you’re not a skier, you can still experience the alpine by purchasing a scenic gondola ride lift ticket at both Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise Ski Resort. Cuddle up and watch the snow whiz past as it carries you to the top of the world. 

5) Soak in a natural hot spring

Discovered in the late 1800s, the natural hot springs of Banff National Park have been charming visitors and calming weary travellers with their warm, therapeutic waters for more than 100 years. After a brisk day bustling around town or a long day on the slopes, nothing is cozier and more inviting than a soak in the steaming waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs

Let all your worries soak away in the Banff Upper Hot Springs. | Photo courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism

6) Skate on wild ice

What do locals love to do in Banff National Park in winter? Skate on wild ice! Take a look at this list of the best wild ice spots to skate including Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, and Lake Louise.

7) Strap on a pair of snowshoes

If you want a winter vacation in Banff National Park, but you’re not a skier, that’s perfectly fine. There are lots of non-ski activities to do in the Canadian Rockies, like snowshoeing. If you’re looking for a cozy weekend getaway, we recommend booking a charming winter cabin, with endless snowshoe trails right outside the back door. 

There are tons of snowshoe trails to explore outside of Banff and Lake Louise’s cozy cabins.| Photo of Baker Creek Mountain Resort courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism

8) Dip into a fondue 

Dipping things in cheese and chocolate? Um, it doesn’t get cozier than that. We’ve put together a list of the best fondue in Banff and Lake Louise from the streets of Banff Ave. to the slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort. What’s a winter vacation in Canada without a little fondue?

9) Warm-up at an Irish pub 

Not used to the Canadian cold? Warm-up at St. James Gate, Banff’s friendliest Irish pub. Not to mention, when you ski all three “Big3” resorts – Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski resort, and Mt. Norquay – in one trip, you’ve won the SkiBig3 Trifecta Challenge and you’re eligible for a free drink (with food purchase) at St. James Gate. Visit the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub to claim your drink voucher and special prize.  

St. James Gate is the friendliest Irish pub in Banff and Lake Louise. | Photo courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism

10) Find a cute coffee shop

Whether you’re a flat white, basic americano, or maybe even a mocha kind of coffee drinker – Banff and Lake Louise have got some of the cutest coffee shops to sit in or take out. Our top picks? Check out Wild Flour Bakery, Whitebark Cafe, Javalanche Cafe, and Uprising Bakeshop + Espresso Bar

11) Go on a winter walk

Taking a rest day? With a SkiBig3 lift ticket, you have rest days built in so it’s easy to take a break from the slopes and explore Banff National Park. In the town of Banff, the Bow Falls Trail is an easy, beautiful trail (1.2km/0.75 miles) that follows the Bow River. 

12) Eat charcuterie in a cellar

Tucked away in ‘The Castle’, Grapes is one of Banff’s hidden gems and the best spot to find fine wines and charcuterie. Located in the Fairmont Banff Springs, Grapes serves up a curated selection of artisan cheeses, cured meats, and house-baked bread with perfectly paired wine. 

13) Sip sake and eat sushi at a tiny bar

Choose your friends wisely, the Tiny Bar at Hello Sunshine only seats six people. And reservations get snatched up quickly! Book this cozy hidden gem, known for its low light and high groove, for a super intimate, one-of-a-kind night. Sushi and sake in Banff? Trust us, it’s incredible. 

The Tiny Bar at Hello Sunshine only seats 6 sushi-lovers. Book it for you and your friends. | Photo by Hello Sunshine

14) Have a picnic in “the Park”

Okay, so maybe not a picnic and maybe not outside (it’s winter after all) but if you’re looking for a cozy campfire atmosphere inside – you’ve got to check out Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar. Plating up wood-fired, spit-roasted, and smokey-savoury feeds with spirits distilled in-house, this dining hot spot serves up everything you want from a campfire and award-winning cocktail bar at the same time. Choose to sit outside, wrapped in a blanket at their outdoor “campfire” table (with real flames), or sit inside and soak in their perfectly curated Canadian decor. 

15) Find a frozen waterfall

When it’s winter in Banff National Park, everything starts to glisten with a sparkling layer of ice and snow – including its most famous waterfalls! To see one of the park’s most gorgeous waterfalls frozen in time, take an ice walk up Johnston Canyon to the Lower Falls (approx. 1.2km/0.75 miles) or Upper Falls (approx. 2.5km/1.6 miles) from the trailhead. We also recommend checking out the frozen waterfall at the end of Lake Louise and the Grotto Canyon ice walk, near Canmore. 

Johnston Canyon is one of the most beautiful frozen waterfalls in Banff National Park. | Photo courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism

16) Find a patio fire pit 

The best cure for rose cheeks and a frosty nose? Warming up beside a toasty fit pit. For lunch or apres – finding a fire pit on the patio, like here at Mt. Norquay’s Cascade Lodge, is a must to complete your cozy weekend getaway.

17) Take home a new toque

Even when your winter vacation in Banff National Park must come to an end, it doesn’t mean you can’t take a little coziness home with you. Before you leave, stop by the SkiBig Adventure Hub and choose from their selection of high-quality brand-name beanies and SkiBig3 logo wear. A cozy reminder of your winter vacation in Canada! 

Warm-up between laps beside a roaring fire pit, found near Mt. Norquay’s Cascade Lodge.

Start planning your cozy getaway

Start planning your cozy winter vacation in Banff National Park today! Should you need a bit more flexibility with your travel plans this winter our no-questions-asked cancellation policy allows for free changes and cancellations until 3-days prior to arrival. To book your winter ski vacation, call 1-844-754-2443 to speak with a reservation specialist or go online to access some exceptional Ski & Stay Package deals.